Cuckoo! Spring has sprung and this month we're behind the scenes with the skipper of our Dundas Street tea room, Hannah, who keeps the cuckoo clock ticking and the haberdashery stocked with cakes. Read on for Hannah's take on everything from managing a busy cafe to her exciting foodie side-project and taking cupcakes to Hawaii!
Talk us through a typical day as manager of Dundas Street
First thing is to get the shop fired up for the day. Sorting through stacks of cupcakes to get our haberdashery ready for its time to shine and boxing up the little and large cupcake orders. It’s usually non stop from the minute our Cuckoo strikes 9. I make sure our deliveries get sent out in between making the first morning coffees. Before I start with the admin, I update our Facebook page with one of our weekly specials so that our social media fans can keep up to date with what’s new. Then it’s a mix of responding to general enquiries by e-mail, checking the baking plans, placing stock orders with our suppliers and then checking in with the teams at Bruntsfield and the bakery to make sure we are all up to date.
What's your favourite part of your job?
I love chatting to our customers and making sure they are as happy as can be. Whether it’s a familiar face popping in for their coffee and cake or meeting new customers who are visiting from afar, it’s great being able to interact with new people. And the coffee art! Making pretty coffees doesn’t seem to get old, perhaps it’s the competition between the staff of who can make the prettiest. I suppose the occasional product testing isn’t bad either.
Describe your management style?
I think it totally depends on who I am talking to and the type of day we are having. If it’s busy it’s important to be delegating jobs to the team otherwise you can get caught up in the buzz and have three people making one pot of tea. When we are quieter then there’s a natural instinct between us to find the next thing that needs doing. When everyone's doing their best to get things done, it makes a good team.
What are your tips for making sure the place runs smoothly even when you're run off your feet?
I’ve been told I’m patient and good at keeping calm which comes in handy when we have queues forming at the door and enough cake to feed a small army. You have to keep topping up. Topping up on boxes, napkins, cakes and coffee cups always help the place run smoothly and also remembering to send everyone on their lunch break!!! Nothing like a busy shop and a hangry member of staff.
Are there any songs on the Cuckoo's playlist that you find yourself humming on a day off?
Well there’s a track from my one of my favourite films when I was younger. Send Me On My Way. That scene when Matilda’s left home alone age 4 and starts cooking herself pancakes. Shout out to my sister for watching this film with me every morning before school for a solid month. You’re a champ.
You're a snappy dresser, Hannah! What are your secrets for a capsule work wardrobe that isn't dull?
Comfort is key. I usually start off with a plain dress or jeans and then chuck on a cosy cardigan and jazz it up with a chunky necklace. If it’s not jewellery doing the work then a pair of brogues or a snazzy jacket. My jacket collection seems to be ever growing. Not forgetting dungaree day. Dungaree day is always good.
Tell us about your project Eatinburgh. How did it come about and how do you manage to fit it in around full-time work?
Myself and Pippa, a fellow Cuckoo member, spend an unbelievable amount of time sourcing new coffee shops and finding the best places to eat and drink. We suffer from that habit of not being able to start dinner without photographing what is on our plates. Thanks to everyone who is patient enough to come out and eat with us. We appreciate it. It came about one night when we were stuffing our faces with tapas after work and we decided we wanted to create an Instagram page recommending our favourite spots to eat and drink with a strong focus on independent businesses. Food always comes first. We tend to plan our day or evening around where we will be eating or drinking and then the rest follows. With the amount of new restaurants and cafes opening I don’t see us conquering Edinburgh’s foodie scene any time soon. But we’re giving it our best shot.
What are your favourite spots in Edinburgh for...
eating: This is the trickiest question you have asked so far…It depends what I am looking for. My favourite for breakfast is Pancakes at The Haven Cafe. They are crazy good. Favourite all-rounder would be Spoon. I love the interior! And they do a good brunch, lunch and dinner. For a special occasion it has to be Timberyard and The Gardener’s Cottage.
drinking: I will never turn down a good cocktail. I think Hoot The Redeemer is a recent favourite. They serve up amazing drinks with the added fun of a Pinch and Sip fairground game, and Señor Scoop - the alcoholic ice cream machine. Paradise Palms is good as well, I had drinks there on my last birthday and they made me a Piña Colada served straight out of a whole pineapple.
shopping: I could spend ages looking round small jewellery shops like Gallerie Mirages or Hannah Zakari. They are incredibly different but they both bring unique jewellery to Edinburgh and I love admiring their new finds.
people watching: There are so many good people watching spots in Edinburgh. A pavement bar or cafe in the Grassmarket is perfect for it. If you can get a good window seat somewhere on the Royal Mile or in the Meadows during the festival then you are in for a treat.
What can we expect from the Dundas Street tea room over spring and summer?
We have the launch of some brand new Cuckoo’s products which I am so excited about! They have already begun slowly rolling out with the introduction of our tasty new scone flavours. These range from Berry and White Chocolate to Banoffee to Smoked Bacon and Brie!! Then it will be on to our Summer and Father’s Day ranges in June. Lots to keep us going! And watch out for our new Cuckies!
What's your favourite thing, sweet or savoury, on the Cuckoo's menu at the moment?
The new Elvis Loaf is so tasty. It’s a banana bread packed with peanut butter and chocolate chips then covered in chocolate ganache. I’m hungry now thinking about it.
If you could take Cuckoo's Bakery to any festival anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
This just got me searching loads of food festivals around the world for a bit of inspiration. As I can go anywhere I’ve settled on The Food and Wine Festival in Hawaii. I’ll find a way to incorporate some Cuckoo’s cupcakes. I’m thinking a beach hut serving up our most exotic flavours accompanied by coconut shell cocktails and a bit of Hawaiian guitar music.